Earliest Mayan calendar found in lost city
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Friday 11 May 2012
Archaeologists have unearthed the earliest calendar of the ancient Maya civilisation of Central America. It was written on the walls of a building within a vast lost city buried in the jungles of Guatemala.
Hundreds of inscriptions or “glyphs” etched or painted onto the building’s crumbling walls appear to represent the astronomical cycles of the Maya who assiduously followed the movements of the Sun, Moon and the visible planets such as Venus.
The calendar was created several centuries before the famous bark-paper Maya calendar known as the Dresden Codex, which was made just prior to the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492, the scientists said.
The room housing the mural appears to be the work space of scribes living in the Maya city of Xultun, a sprawling complex of buildings in Guatemala’s Peten region that was built between the first centuries BC and about 900AD over an area of 12 square miles.
Tiny, millimetre thick red and black glyphs appear to represent the various calendrical cycles of the Maya, such as the 260-day ceremonial calendar, the 365-day solar calendar, the 584-day cycle of the planet Venus and the 780-day cycle of Mars, according to a study published in the journal Science.
William Saturno of Boston University, who led the excavation funded by the National Geographic, said that many of the red and black glyphs are unlike anything else found at other Maya sites. Four long numbers appear on one of the walls and represent one-third of a million to 2.5 million days stretching 7,000 years into the future, which appears to be an attempt to bring together all the astronomical cycles that the Maya believed to be important.
“For the first time we get to see what may be actual records kept by a scribe, whose job was to be official record keeper of a Maya community…and they’re painting it on the wall. They seem to be using it like a blackboard,” Dr Saturno said.
One of the goals of the Maya calendar known as the Dresden Codex was to seek harmony between sacred rituals and the events they could witness in the sky, the scientists said. “The Xultun paintings may represent an expression of the same ambition several centuries earlier,” they said.
- 1 I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Jeremy Hunt: 'I took my children to A&E because I didn't want to wait for GP appointment'
- 4 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove 'stupid' sign suggesting superheroes are 'for boys'
- 5 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
Sarah Vine criticises lesbian mother Jack Monroe: 'If she was unsure about her sexuality, she should have taken greater precautions'
Black Friday 2014: Opening times for Asda, John Lewis, PC World, GAME and Argos
Three-year-old boy accidentally shoots dead his mother in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as she changes her younger daughter's nappy
Michael Brown shooting: Driver smashes into crowd as protests erupt across the US during a second night of unrest
Jeremy Hunt: 'I took my children to A&E because I didn't want to wait for GP appointment'
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict
£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Required skills include SQL querying, SSRS, u...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...
Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...
£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...